Wednesday, April 30, 2014


What follows is another article by Author, Lecturer and Word-guru, Richard Lederer, from the Mensa Bulletin, reprinted here with permission
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In the wake of recent revelations that the NSA collects data on millions of Americans, sales of the centennial edition of George Orwell’s novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” have soared 5,800 percent on Amazon. During the first 35 years of its life, Orwell’s final and most famous book caught the attention of readers throughout the world —  at least in those parts where people were free to read the books they chose. Almost three decades after the actual year 1984 has come and gone, relatively few readers are experiencing the chilling prophecies of Orwell’s dystopian vision, until now.

In 1949, as George Orwell lay on a sanatorium bed under the shadow of a death that would soon come from tuberculosis and exhaustion, the world received “Nineteen Eighty-Four “and gained a new synonym for tyranny and totalitarianism. In Orwell's nightmare vision the world, after an atomic war, has divided itself into three massive slave states — Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia. The three superpowers are about equal in strength and are continuously at war. But it is a war that nobody can win.

In the hands of the governments absolute power has corrupted absolutely. Each dictatorship possesses an all-pervading control of collective behavior and of thought itself. The past is a pawn in the hands of present policy: When the rulers want to change history, they destroy all old books and periodicals and replace them with new ones. The power elite are indifferent to truth. In effect, there is no truth and there is no past.

It is the same with the people. All dissent is outlawed. Citizens who dare to think antistate thoughts are branded “unpersons” and sent off to “unexist” or be brutally re-educated. The line is rigidly set by Big Brother, the black mustachioed dictator whose dark, penetrating eyes stare down from posters everywhere. Two-way telescreens peer into every room and public place. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU. A wrong facial expression can mean liquidation; there is no such thing as a private life.

 For many readers, the most terrifying aspect of “Nineteen Eighty-Four” is not the technological gimmick of the two-way telescreens, but the government’s ability to engird thought by restricting its vehicle, language. Orwell forges an iron link between language and mind. If our words are the windows through which we look at the world, reducing the number, size and transparency of those windows limits our ability to view and deal with reality.

The State’s most powerful method of thought control is “Newspeak,” a modified form of “Oldspeak,” or standard English, designed with catchall clichés and fewer words so as to make reflective, creative and unorthodox thought impossible. One of the goals of Newspeak is to diminish the value of language by crippling the rich associations of older words and shrinking the size of the vocabulary. Today evidence of this insidious process is all around us.

Newspeak happens when the original meaning of unique, “one of a kind,” becomes identical with the word unusual, as in “That was one of the most unique seminars I’ve ever attended.” Newspeak happens when we can no longer distinguish between words such as uninterested and disinterested, affect and effect, farther and further, verbal and oral, compose and comprise, reluctant and reticent, energized and enervated, and less and fewer. Newspeak happens when we say momentarily when we mean presently and presently when we mean now. “We live, man and worm, in a time when almost everything can mean almost anything,” wrote humorist James Thurber, whose insights weren’t always meant to be humorous.

George Orwell is watching you. Rather than being a pessimistic determinist, Orwell was a committed humanist concerned that we not make our ultimate home on an anthill. More powerfully than any other writer, he warned us that dishonest language is a drug that can put conscience to sleep. He alerted us that when words are used to lie rather than to tell the truth, the house of language grows dark and the human spirit withers.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


As I promised a few weeks ago, the digital version of my latest book will be free on Amazon for five days beginning Thursday, April 24th through April 28th. Click on this link.

FINDING AMY started life several years ago as HIDE AND SEEK, and, sometimes, LOST AND FOUND, but when I gave up trying to get a “big” publisher, I changed the title, and my talented artist-husband designed the cover. Joel Friedlander, the Book Designer, thinks the background has too much texture, but, since the novel is Romantic Suspense, I like the darker shades. The price of $3.99 reflects the fact it’s a longer-than-usual book at almost 300 pages. However, during the month of May, early buyers will be able pick it up for only $2.99.

Both romance and mystery abound, but there’s also humor. I love to add bits of that to my books, because I love comedy and like to read other writers’ books that use a little humor. Here are a few samples to whet your appetite:

In her experience, time had done a bang-up job of matching the speed of light.
“You must stop moping around feeling sorry for yourself.”
“You‘re right, as usual. I’ll go.” Better than lying awake listening to mice chatting to one another in the walls.

During that long-ago summer, she’d waded in the lily pond. With her girl cousins, she’d climbed over the stone cherubs, giggling about whether the boy cherub was anatomically correct.

"Yet you did inherit something. A trunk in the attic sounds positively mysterious."
"You mean I might find an old skeleton inside?"
"Let's hope not, but aren't you anxious to find out?"
     "Not much. Elmore hasn't led me to expect the Crown Jewels."

Hugh grinned at her strange behavior, backed out and closed the door behind him. Sabrina wished she could take him into her confidence. Before he decided some village was minus its idiot.

There’s more. Plus Sabrina is followed, has her hotel rooms trashed (twice!) And is kidnapped. It was such fun to write, and I hope you’ll find it fun to read.

Joel Friedlander"

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


On April 23, we will celebrate the 450th birthday of William Shakespeare, who was, quite simply, the most prolific word-maker who ever trod the earthly stage. Of the 20,138 basewords that Shakespeare employs in his plays, sonnets, and other poems, his is the first known use of over 1,700 of them. The most verbally innovative of our authors, Shakespeare made up more than 8.5 percent of his written vocabulary. Reading his works is like witnessing the birth of modern English.    

Among his verbal inventions are: auspicious, bedroom, bump, dishearten, dwindle, hurry, lapse, lonely, majestic, road, sneak and useless. So great is his influence on his native tongue that we find it hard to imagine a time when these words did not exist.

Oscar Wilde once quipped, “Now we sit through Shakespeare in order to recognize the quotations.” Unrivaled in so many other ways in matters verbal, Shakespeare is unequaled as a phrasemaker.

“All for one, one for all,” and “not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,” respectively wrote Alexandre Dumas in The Three Musketeers and Clement Clark Moore in The Night Before Christmas. But Shakespeare said them first — “One for all, or all for one we gage” in The Rape of Lucrece and “not a mouse stirring” in Hamlet.

A student who attended a performance of Hamlet came away complaining that the play “was nothing more than a bunch of cliches.” The reason for this common reaction is that so many of the memorable expressions in Hamlet have become proverbial. In that one play alone were born: " brevity is the soul of wit, there's the rub, to thine own self be true, it smells to heaven, the very witching time of night, the primrose path, though this be madness, yet there is method in it, dog will have his day, the apparel oft proclaims the man, neither a borrower nor a lender be, frailty, thy name is woman, something is rotten in the state of Denmark, more honored in the breach than the observance, hoist with his own petard, the lady doth protest too much, to be or not to be, sweets for the sweet, the be-all and end-all, to the manner born, and more in sorrow than in anger."

Cudgel your brain, and you can append a sample of everyday, idiomatic phrases from other Shakespearean plays: If you knit your brow and wish that this disquisition would vanish into thin air because it is Greek to you, you are quoting William Shakespeare in all his infinite variety. If you point the finger at strange bedfellows and blinking idiots, you are converting Shakespeare’s coinages into currency. If you have seen better days in your salad days, when you wore your heart on your sleeve, you are, whether you know it or not, going from Bard to verse.

If you break the ice with one fell swoop, if you never stand on ceremonies, if you play it fast and loose until the crack of doom, if you paint the lily, if you hope for a plague on both houses, if you are more sinned against than sinning because you have been eaten out of house and home by your own flesh and blood (the most unkindest cut of all), if you haven't slept a wink and are breathing your last because you're in a pickle, if you carry within you the milk of human kindness and a heart of gold (even though you know that all that glisters is not gold), if you laugh yourself into stitches at too much of a good thing, if you make a virtue of necessity, if you know that the course of true love never did run smooth, and if you won't budge an inch — why, if the truth be told and the truth will out, what the dickens, in a word, right on!, be that as it may, the game is up — you are, as luck would have it, standing on that tower of strength of phrasemakers, William Shakespeare.

The etymologist Ernest Weekley said of Shakespeare, “His contribution to our phraseology is ten times greater than that of any writer to any language in the history of the world.” The essayist and novelist Walter Pater exclaimed, “What a garden of words!” In Sonnet CXVI the Bard himself wrote, “If this be error and upon me proved,/I never writ, nor no man ever loved.” If Shakespeare had not lived and written with such a loving ear for the music of our language, our English tongue would be immeasurably the poorer. No day goes by that we do not speak and hear and read and write his legacy.

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The article above was written by Richard Lederer and published in the April 2014 edition of the Mensa Bulletin. It is reprinted here with his permission. Richard Lederer is the author of over 30 books on Language and related topics, writes a syndicated weekly column, and is a popular speaker at organization meetings, conferences and schools. His website is, and you can purchase his books there via PayPal.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


The Passive Voice carried an article today about a monthly “Competition” for DIY (also known as self-published or “Indie”) books. It’s sponsored by the Guardian, a British newspaper, together with publisher Legend Times to “find the best self-published novels in any genre, every month.”

Entries must be written in English, or translated into English. It would appear it’s open to U.K. authors only, but I’m not positive about that.

Comments on the TPV blog were mostly skeptical of the value of entering such a contest. They felt that self-published books don’t need to have a competition of their own, but should be judged with all other books in the already-existing yearly writing contests. Romance Writers of America has opened its Rita Awards to self-published books for the first time this year, which is a good start.

Other commenters thought it was too much like the old traditional way of rewarding what was considered “best.” Readers are different and like different books. That doesn’t make one better than another and worthy of accolades. Most writers I know just want to be found by enough readers who like their style.

There’s also the worry, at least among some authors reading about this, that it might be just another scam. Writers are targeted relentlessly by those who see a way to make money on someone else’s hard work. Not to insinuate it’s another Author Solutions, which preys on beginning and naive writers, but many have been fooled occasionally by the offers that sound “too good to be true” and, later, prove to be so.

In addition, when there is so little time and so many ideas floating in our heads, do we need another reason to leave our WIP and follow a Pied Piper? As a member of RWA, I used to enter contents by its local chapters, but I’ve stopped doing that. These days I save my energy for the big ones.

I was a finalist in the RWA Golden Heart Awards, and when I lived in San Diego county, I won the San Diego Book Award with my romantic-suspense novel, NORTH BY NORTHEAST. I’ve also been a finalist in the St. Martin’s Press Malice Domestic Mystery Contest in both 2009 and 2012. When I finish my current mystery novel, I’d like to try for an Edgar Award. Until then, I’ll pass.  Of course, I wouldn’t say “no” to a National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize or Nobel.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


I’m thrilled to announce my newest book has just been sent to Amazon. It’s FINDING AMY and is romantic-suspense. It’s also longer than most of my other books, so the e-book will be $3.99 instead of $2.99. Still a bargain for almost 300 pages.

Speaking of bargains, I’m thinking of putting it on KDP Select for 90 days, five of which will see the price at zero. You can wait for that - I’ll announce which days are free on this Blog - or, if you prefer trade paper, I’ll send you an autographed copy for $15 including shipping, and  also send you a free digital version.

FINDING AMY has been rewritten several times - always trying to improve it - but never found a home with the Big-5 publishers, so I’ve given it to my small press friends at Criterion House.

The story is set mostly in London, with a quick trip to Paris where my characters are arrested by the French gendarmes! Whoops, I just revealed a part of the plot. It also contains a jeweled necklace, a break-in at the heroine’s bed-and-breakfast, and a kidnapping. I had such fun writing all that. Plus romance. I did mention the handsome hero, didn’t I?

He followed her, the clean masculine scent of him mingling with the library's smell of furniture polish and old leather. “And what work keeps you away?”
“I’m in business, and you don’t really want to know the boring details.”
        "But here you are now, regrettably the non-owner of Gilmore Manor.” He paused. "Yet you did inherit something. A trunk in the attic sounds positively mysterious."
"You mean I might find an old skeleton inside?"
"Let's hope not. But aren't you anxious to find out?"
       "Not much. I doubt I’ve been given the Crown Jewels."

Some years ago, my husband had to go to London on business (and to get an award) and I went along. My grandfather emigrated to the U.S. from England before my father was born, so, while there, I visited a relative of his and was treated to a home-cooked meal of lamb, Yorkshire pudding and tart. In addition, we did a lot of tourist things, some of which found their way into the book. During the succeeding years, we took several more trips “across the pond” to visit British friends who had once lived here in the States.

We visited the National Gallery, Big Ben, and Parliament and rode on the top of a red double-decker bus. We were there in late October and attended a great neighborhood Halloween party which, however, did not get into FINDING AMY.

As I write this, I’m getting nostalgic, so it must be time to go to England again. Or Australia. I haven’t been there and perhaps there’s a book set there waiting to be written. After all, look what happened after I visited France, Italy and the Bahamas.